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What are the differences between a counselor, psychiatrist, and clinical psychologist?

Posted on Sep 11, 2017

        You’ve been going through some challenges in life lately, and have decided on seeking help. As you begin to search on where to go on the Internet, it seems that there are different terms for different therapies, and it can all be so confusing. With this article, you’ll be clear on whom to go to, and begin your journey to personal development! 


Choosing the right kind of therapist for you can be key in getting much needed help! (Image source)


         A counselor in Malaysia is a mental health practitioner who has undergone a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate level education in Counseling. In order to receive their license from Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia, they are required to fulfill certain criteria, which include hours conducting counseling, hours being in supervision, and so on. A counselor might not necessarily require a background in psychology prior to pursuing studies at the Master’s or Doctorate level. As such, a person who is interested in becoming a counselor while having a Bachelor’s from a different field may also apply.

         With this being said, the scope of a counselor’s training may not include certain components of psychology or mental health. Their training might not include the study of mental disorders and psychological assessments, the study of the brain in relation to human behavior (i.e. neuropsychology), and the study of psychiatric medication (i.e. psychopharmacology). However, similar to other mental health professionals, a counselor possesses the skills and will be able to provide support and work through emotional, cognitive, and behavioral difficulties that the client is facing. 

         A clinical psychologist is a mental health professional with a minimum of a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. In order to be accepted into a clinical psychology program, a person has to be from a psychology background, and must possess a Bachelor’s in Psychology.


In general, all mental health practitioners will be able to provide you with some form of assistance (image source). 


        There are many overlaps on what a counselor and a clinical psychologist can do. Both mental health professionals will be able to provide consultations to clients in order to improve their mental health. However, due to differences in training, a clinical psychologist will be able to provide an assessment and diagnosis with regards to the client’s mental health, while a counselor may not.

        Last but not least, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has undergone specialization in psychiatry. Psychiatrists are usually trained in the medical model, and as such, the main method of treatment would usually be through medication. A psychiatrist will be able to diagnose and prescribe medication. He or she may also offer therapy consultations similar to what is done by clinical psychologists or counselors. However, this depends on the background and training of the psychiatrist, as many may choose to work with their patients primarily via medication.

        While there are similarities and differences in what different mental health professionals are able to do, it is most important that you make positive progress towards your goals when seeking help. Many clients also find that they work better with the therapist if they are able to feel comfortable and trusting toward their therapist, and that the professional relationship that they have during sessions are non-judgmental and constructive towards the client’s life.


Note: TheHelpTalk is a platform for counselors and clinical psychologists with a qualification of at least a Master’s Degree to provide online therapy consultations to users.

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